Financial consultant Anupam Gupta, well known on Twitter for his humorous accounts of living in Mumbai, struck a chord when he recently posted, “Keto is now so mandatory in Bandra that you can’t get a house until you declare you’re on keto.”
Gupta might have been exaggerating less than he intended to with his quip, because the keto diet – after a steady rise in followers over the last couple of years – has become nothing less than a mainstream phenomenon this year. The fact that it’s expanded beyond the realms of hipster haven Bandra – into the permanent menus of restaurants across the city and on the websites of start-ups selling fitness food products – proves that it’s not just a fad diet; it’s a lifestyle choice.
“I would say keto isn’t a fad, because it follows the simple rules of biochemistry,” says Dhriti Udeshi, a Mumbai-based nutritionist, personal trainer and menu consultant. After being introduced to the diet three years ago, Udeshi studied it further till she was convinced about its merits. Ever since, she has been recommending it to several clients – and to me – with a very high success rate, so much so that recently, the Andheri health food joint Kale & Kaffe recently used her expertise to launch a full-fledged keto menu for their customers.
“It’s easy to order grilled or steamed meat with veggies while you’re eating out on a ketogenic diet. So we have tried to include items that people usually miss eating on this diet, like burgers, pasta, toasties and dessert. We swapped regular bread for almond flour bread, pasta for zucchini noodles (also known as zoodles), and got good quality, sugarfree dark chocolate for our desserts,” says Aditya Wanwari, founder-partner, Kale & Kaffe, who follows the diet himself.
Keto Coffee at Kale & Kaffe
Wanwari says the response has been so overwhelming that they plan to add to the existing menu of five savoury and sweet items each. A meal subscription plan is already in the works, while keto desserts are also being served at Kale & Kaffe’s sister brand, LMNOPQ – an Asian restaurant in Khar. Soon, the latter will serve zoodles cooked in Asian styles as well.
Another popular venue, Silver Beach Café, also serves an all-day keto menu, put together in consultation with nutritionist Jaydeep Bhuta. Pizzas with a cauliflower base, or grilled salmon with a cauli-cheese mash replacing carb-heavy potatoes are some of the innovations that do well at both outlets of the café. At Raasta, in Mumbai and New Delhi, the chicken skewers and flourless cake are hot favourites on the special keto menu.
Flourless Cake at Raasta
The biggest indicator of the keto diet’s mainstream popularity, however, is the fact that it has appealed to the masses. Across major Indian cities, WhatsApp groups have emerged, connecting like-minded people. The group Desi Keto, for instance, has over a hundred members – from ages 23 to 45 – who organize monthly meet-ups, go trekking together and share information, recipes and more.
Specialty food stores are also milking the trend. At outlets of Foodhall, there are keto zones that sell everything from coconut yogurt, fresh guacamole and marinated meats and tofu to a variety of nut and seed butters, flours and dairy products with high fat contents.
Almond Keto Dark Choclate Bar by Grow Fit
Online, too, keto customers are boosting the revenues of websites selling food items tailored for diabetes, PCOS, weight loss and gain etc. Bengaluru-based start-up Grow Fit has seen sales go up over 200 per cent in the last six months alone. “There has been a tremendous pull in the market for both our packaged food as well as fresh food meal delivery service. Some of our most popular products are the Ultra Low Carb Flour, Almond Keto Dark Chocolate Bar, Ultra Low Carb Meal Replacement Smoothie, High Protein Flour and the Breakfast Bar,” says Ritvik Sharma, VP, product marketing, Grow Fit.
Avocado Cream Dip at Foodhall
The company was launched in 2015 with the aim to help over 300 million Indians who face the risk of contracting lifestyle diseases. “According to the World Economic Forum, in India alone, over six million lives are lost every year due to lifestyle diseases. And the economic burden of lifestyle diseases has been estimated to be over $4.58 trillion by 2030,” adds Sharma, whose team will soon expand their meal delivery service to Chennai, followed by New Delhi, NCR, Mumbai and Hyderabad. The keto range – which has become Grow Fit’s flagship product range – will also introduce readyto-eat meal kits with a high packaged shelf life.
Avocado Hummus and Keto Butter Garlic Prawns
All things considered, the keto diet does have its restrictions. “For vegetarians, the choices do get limited in terms of protein – which is an extremely important macronutrient – to cheese and paneer. In India, most vegetarian diets are high in carbs for this very reason, and people don’t meet their minimum daily protein intake,” says Udeshi. Those who are non-vegetarians, but tend to follow more westernised diets , can also falter if they go overboard with the consumption of processed meats. “I ask my clients to stay away from bacon, sausages and salami on a regular basis, because they reflect in your lipid profile, resulting in high cholesterol levels.”
Keto Menus at Silver Beach Cafe and Kale & Kaffe
What Udeshi does assure her clients is that they don’t have to swear off carbs for good – in case you were worried you’d never get to have bread, rice or rotis again. “One can and should definitely slowly introduce more sources of carbs after reaching their fitness goals. That makes this diet less restrictive and more of a lifestyle. But it is important to understand what sources of carbs suit your body. When you work with a professional, they can guide you better in arriving at your maintenance diet,” she says.
What is the keto diet?
Everybody has two sources of energy – one from glucose (carbohydrates break down into glucose on digestion) and the other from ketones (essentially by-products of fat breakdown). Since glucose is easily available and is a quick source of energy, the body doesn’t feel the need to use ketones. In the absence of sufficient glycogen (the stored form of glucose), the body starts breaking down body fats to give you energy. Therefore, restriction of carbohydrates is important to deplete the glycogen stores in one’s body and for it to switch to ketones for energy. To put it simply, ketosis is a metabolic state reached when your body runs out of excess glycogen stores and then starts using fat for fuel.
Avocados Nuts – pecan, Brazilian, macadamia, hazelnuts, almonds
Green leafy vegetables
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